This feature was the cover story of the November 22, 2008 edition of Seven Days magazine in The West. Imagine how many hits I might have had if I had posted it in December when the film opened!
Will make an effort to get an appropriate photo…
Parents, be prepared for wallets to take a battering this summer when High School Musial 3: Senior Year hits the big screen. SUE YEAP talks to star Zac Efron about the musical phenomenon that has raked in millions at the box office.
ZAC Efron’s life-sized face stares out from a bright red t-shirt emblazoned with the words “I Love Troy”.
Efron’s flawless good looks have made him a pin-up star the world over, his image gracing everything from T-shirts and posters to lunch boxes and quilt covers.
California-born and bred, Efron started performing in musicals around the age of 11 and by his mid teens had graduated to roles in TV dramas such as ER, NCIS and Summerland before hitting the big time as singing basketball star Troy Bolton in the 2006 made for TV movie High School Musical.
The family-friendly film featuring an all-singing, all-dancing cast of good looking teens rapidly won over children and parents with its themes of friendship, loyalty and determination, not to mention a catchy soundtrack.
High School Musical 2 attracted more than 18.6 million viewers when it screened in the US last August (2007), more than doubling the audience for the original and setting a record for the biggest audience in US cable television history.
With DVD, CD and book sales in their millions and successful ice and stage shows also drawing big audiences it was no surprise when Walt Disney Pictures decided to release High School Musical 3: Senior Year in cinemas.
HSM3 opened in the US on October 24 and smashed the opening record for a live-action musical with US$42 million (AU$62 million) in ticket sales, eclipsing the debuts of Mamma Mia! (US$27.8 million/AU$41.2 million) and Hairspray ($27.5 million/UA$40.8), a film in which Efron also starred. Already the film has grossed more than $160 million worldwide.
There’s little doubt much of HSM’s appeal lies with heart-throb Efron, who was last year listed among People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People and whose fans seem to number as many mothers as tween and teen girls.
For Efron, introducing a new generation to musicals and movies with positive themes has been one of the biggest rewards of starring in the HSM franchise.
“I remember being, gosh, 12, 13, 14 and I know that a lot of my favourite movies were musicals,” he says by phone from Sydney during a promotional visit.
“A lot of kids today, if you asked them, would not have had that in common until High School Musical came around.
“So that’s probably the most exciting thing, the ability to expose kids to music and spread it around the world. It gives us all great pleasure.”
In HSM3, Troy and Gabriella (played by Efron’s real-life girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens) begin senior year at East High with the excitement of prom and a new musical to look forward to but also the prospect of separation after graduation as they leave for college.
Like its predecessors, it’s all good clean fun with barely a kiss to raise eyebrows.
“Definitely, it is not a documentary of high school it is more high school as a backdrop for a pretty exciting fairytale,” says Efron.
For 21-year-old Efron his biggest challenge at high school was juggling his school work with musical theatre and auditions
“I tended to maintain good grades and school always came first,” he says.
“The moment there was slip up on a test or on my report card I would not be as inclined to go and audition.”
Efron credits his family with keeping him grounded and is grateful his mother gave up so much time to drive him to auditions in Los Angeles.
HSM director Kenny Ortega, who choreographed Dirty Dancing and has worked with Cher, Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly and Hugh Jackman, has nothing but praise for Efron, whose chemistry with Hudgens he noted at their first audition.
“This is a kid who is so bright and so gets it, with such talent, who is so generous, who is going to have a remarkable life and career, there is no question in my mind,” he says.
“And he’s a nice guy, too.”
Does this all round nice guy ever feel like he is might snap with so much media attention and pressure to be a teen role-model?
“Yes, sometimes but you know there is some satisfaction in not giving in,” Efron says.
“I would not want to give anyone else the satisfaction so early on; it is too easy to avoid, it’s not who I am.”
Efron’s career is definitely on the up and up, with two new films due for release next year, the independent feature Me and Orson Welles and 17 Again, a Big-styled comedy in which he stars as the teen version of Matthew Perry’s adult character.
“Playing the same character as Matthew we tended to not be at work on the same days but he was always available for advice,” says Efron.
“I would call him with questions on the character, keeping in mind I have absolutely zero perspective on playing a 35 year old guy!”
Every other day there is a report that High School Musical 4 has been given the green light but so far Efron says he hasn’t been approached to be part of it.
“I am fairly confident at this point a High School Musical 4 would pay dividends but I don’t know the extent of my involvement; no one has really approached us in any way.”
Efron has also been tipped to star with Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean 4, an idea that appeals even if there’s no truth to the rumour.
“Hopefully we can make that one happen, maybe if enough media sources pick it up it might come true!”
Variety recently announced that Paramount had fast-tracked a planned remake of the Kevin Bacon hit Footloose, with Efron to star and Ortega to direct, but Efron’s keeping his cards close to his chest.
“At the moment there are so many ways the movie could be made the wrong way, our challenge is finding a balance,” he says.
“I do see potential in the project.”
What Efron would eventually like to try his hand at is an action movie.
“At some point but I think you have to earn your stripes before you jump into an action role, so I can’t say I am there quite yet.”
High School Musical 3: Senior Year opens December 4.